November 8, 2013

Ceres High athletes pitch life lessons to youngsters

Ceres High Bulldogs step up, talking about choices and consequences with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. The sessions were part of the CHS Athletes as Role Models program that puts the cool factor of sports in play.

Given a choice between doing homework or playing video games, 10-year-old Brian Ayala knows what he should do. Still, hearing it from a Ceres High football player nearly twice his size had an impact.

Ramon Coral’s message to Lisa Highiet’s fifth-grade class was straight to the point: Do your homework and clean your room first, because you’ll get better grades and you won’t get in trouble. He used other examples as well to illustrate “Choices and Consequences,” this week’s theme for the Athletes as Role Models of Ceres High.

Ramon and four other CHS sports figures spent a class period Thursday talking to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes at Carroll Fowler Elementary. They alternate visits there with Caswell Elementary, giving advice on bullying, peer pressure, test-taking strategies and other key kid topics.

Young Brian got the message. “He said to be more efficient and get to things you’re supposed to do first – and not just be lazy,” he said.

Isabella Carrillo, also 10, said she does not care much for video games, her homework competes with dance practice. The make-good-choices speech is nothing new but, she said, “It makes more sense where a kid says it.”

What surprised the fifth-graders, however, was learning Coral has little time for video games during football season. “When you go out for a sport, you make a sacrifice,” program adviser Brett Johnson explained. That’s a consequence of the choice to be in a sport, he said.

Johnson, chair of the CHS Physical Education-Health department, started the ARM program five years ago. “My kids get as much out of it as the younger kids do,” he said, “their public speaking skills, having to think on their feet. The ones who get involved with it, I see them become so much more comfortable and confident.”

Senior Jimmy Bates said he attended Carroll Fowler as a kid. “I remember, high school kids were almost like gods back then,” he said with a laugh.

“You can tell it’s making a difference,” said senior Pietro Puducay, in his second year with the program. “It’s easier the more that you do it.”

The class Puducay spoke to had a substitute. “They weren’t behaving. There were two names on the board already,” he said, so he tailored the focus of his talk on classroom behavior choices and consequences.

Juniors Ryleigh Honberger and Brad Bussard teamed up for a skit on bullying, requested by a sixth-grade teacher who spotted mean, cliquish behavior in her class. The teacher and administrators would be talking about it, too, Johnson said. “This will be a reinforcement, coming from other kids,” he said.

Honberger played it up – telling Bussard to go away, she’d do the program alone. “I just bullied him,” Honberger told the class. “He’s my friend, but I was being mean. How do you think that made him feel?”

“Sad and depressed,” one student said very quietly.

Honberger welcomed Bulldogs quarterback Bussard back, joining in as he walked around the room showing ways to get to know people and make friends.

Now a trim volleyball player, Honberger confided, “When I was little, I was bullied a lot. I was chunky.” She also fessed up to being a bully sometimes.

Asked how many students had been bullied, half raised their hands and the others looked quickly around. How many students had been the bully? A few hands went up.

“In high school, do the jocks help people if there’s a bully?” posed an earnest questioner. Bussard said yes, he looks out for the team water boy, bringing everyone together to talk it out if there’s an issue. “I’m a nerd, too – straight A’s,” Bussard said.

After the session, Honberger said she thought it had an impact, and it had been easy to spot the bullied and the bullies. “Some kids had guilt all over their faces,” she said.

That sense of helping brought her back into the program for a second year, she said. “I feel like you can inspire so many people, help them have a better life.”

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